SEA Days: All Shook Up!

by Rasheed I. Al Kotob, Volunteer Programs Assistant

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography or UC San Diego researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

In the spirit of the annual Great California ShakeOut which was held October 16, and as part of Earthquake Safety Month at Birch Aquarium, this month’s SEA Days theme focuses on the science behind earthquakes and other tectonic plate activity that is responsible for many different natural phenomena that affect land and marine ecosystems alike. Our visiting scientist for the day is Ekaterina “Katia” Tymofyeyeva,  a Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography who conducts research in the field of geophysics. Below, Katia answers questions about her experience in the field, and gives some advice for future scientists.

Where did you go to college?

I got my undergraduate degree in physics at The College of New Jersey. I originally wanted to become an experimental physicist, so I focused on optics, photonics, and electronics. I spent two years after that working at Princeton University doing atomic physics.

What is your area of research?

My area of research is called satellite geodesy. Basically, we use data from satellites to look at small movements on the surface of the Earth. We then use our observations to create mathematical models that can enlighten us about important processes, such as ones that cause earthquakes.

Who or what inspired you to become involved in marine science?

When I was in college, I took just one geology course, and it made me realize I wanted to be involved in geophysics. What inspires me about geophysics is the beauty of being able to look at the Earth and describe it with mathematics. It is also wonderful to work in a field where the long-term goals may have a positive impact on society, such as earthquake prediction.

What qualities do you need in order to become a scientist?

Curiosity and creativity are the most important, because curiosity provides inspiration, and creativity is essential for solving scientific problems. Patience and optimism are also important, because research can be hard work, and things almost never go as planned.

Why is your research topic important?

In general, it is important to learn as much as possible about the planet we live on. But also, geophysics has applications that are important to society, such as the prediction of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. The more we understand about how the Earth works, the more we can use that knowledge to take better care of it, and of ourselves.

What will you be bringing with you to SEA days?

I will be bringing pictures and hands-on activities to teach people about the Earth, earthquakes, and Earth science.

What is the best advice you have for people interested in becoming involved in your field of research?

If you are curious about something, remember that most scientists love to talk about their research, and will be happy to answer your questions. Don’t be intimidated or afraid, and get involved as early as possible.

Katia and team

What is your favorite ocean organism?

Because I am not an ocean scientist, I can’t provide a very meaningful answer to this question. Instead, I will tell you about my favorite rock. It is called a “pseudotachylite,” and it is pretty rare. It is produced when a rock experiences an earthquake somewhere deep in the Earth’s crust, and part of it melts. Many years later, it becomes exposed on the surface. These rocks are sometimes nicknamed “fossil earthquakes,” because they tell a story about deep earthquakes from long ago.

Join us on Saturday, October 18 for SEA Days: All Shook Up! — there’s something for everyone!

SEA Days: All Shook Up!  is generously sponsored by  Time Warner Cable  as part of  Kids Free in October.

SEA Days are 11 a.m – 3 p.m., are included with aquarium admission, and always free to aquarium members. Not a member? Join today!

SEA you there!


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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego